Stray Dogs is a five-issue miniseries told from the perspective of Sophie, a small Papillon who arrives at a new house and is immediately greeted by an eager pack of diverse dogs. When she realizes she doesn’t remember how she got there, Sophie and her new friends work to solve this mystery. Whether you’re a fellow amateur reader or a loyal “Wednesday Warrior,” Stray Dogs is a perfect series to add to your reading queue.
Because there are only five issues, this series involves little commitment, but the few issues are packed with high quality writing and illustration. It’s a mature, totally engrossing story of a puzzling mystery, a terrifying master, and plenty of cute dogs.
“We hear from retailers a lot that our book specifically is one that they can just give to people who come in that don’t read comics, that aren’t ‘Wednesday Warriors,’ because it has a concept you can sell them really easily and also they don’t have to read 1,000 other comics,” writer and creator Tony Fleecs said.
Be Warned and Beware
Full disclosure: this series does not restrain from the horror of a murder mystery. Readers only see the Master through what the dogs are aware of, and the dogs admit they have no idea what he does for a living or where he goes during the day. This adds suspense to the comic series, and it only gets darker as the issues continue.
Nevertheless, there is much more to the Stray Dogs series than only the horror. There is humor incorporated throughout, giving readers a pause to giggle and appreciate the cute variety of dogs.
“Some of it was created organically too,” Artist and Creator Trish Forstner said. “When you have 11 dogs in a scene or in one panel – as there were a lot of them – they could give looks in the background, or we could put stuff going on that isn’t the focus of that panel.”
Every frame is so intentional in what it shows or reveals. If one looks beyond just the dialogue of the page, they’ll notice each frame has a distinct purpose. Whether it be to evoke a certain mood, transition readers into a new setting, or hint at something related to the overall mystery, Stray Dogs has encapsulated everything a horror story should be onto the pages of a comic book.
“I sent the whole team Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon when we started working on it, just to sort of say, ‘This is the perfect tone I think for animal comics,’” Fleecs mentioned about some of the inspiration for Stray Dogs. “Ours would look different, obviously, but that [level of] seriousness with talking animals was the touchstone. I wanted to do it as a comic because I wanted to make comics. That’s what I’ve spent the last 15-20 years doing. The way that this is a mystery and has cliffhangers, it all sort of fits into the comic book format very nicely. And every issue we have has a big hit at the end of it, which is sort of what I love about comics.”
On Creating Stray Dogs
Image Comics has a well-established reputation for publishing comics with the best premises. Some of their most well-known works include Invincible, The Walking Dead and Jupiter’s Legacy; all of which are actively streaming TV shows. It’s clear Stray Dogs is no exception to the great works produced by Image Comics.
Fleecs recalled reading Image Comics when he initially started reading comics at 14, back when they were made for 14 year old boys almost exclusively.
“And, as I got older they sort of got smarter with me,” Fleecs said. “They started publishing stuff in the early 2000s that were interesting comics, and then around 10 years ago they became the place where you go to get the best concepts and the comics. To have an idea as weird as this, for them to publish us, really gives us a mark of like, you can trust on this.”
Other publishers such as Marvel or DC Comics tend to monopolize the market for comic book to screen adaptations, but Image Comics offers readers arguably more experimental ideas. Stray Dogs is unorthodox in its approach to horror and humor in the unexpected context of lovable four legged friends. Meeting all the characters of Stray Dogs is reason enough to get you hands on a copy.
Announcement and Where to Get a Copy
With the announcement of Paramount Pictures planning to create an animated horror film based on Stray Dogs, it will be interesting to see how this story is translated into a movie.
“I want to see how close they keep it to the art style, or if they keep it to the art style, or if they pull away from that,” Forstner commented. “I would want them to stick to the style that we have because it’s meant to feel gritty, kind of hand-drawn.”
Fleecs echoed Forstner, saying, “I think it would be cool if it still looked like that, but we’re sorta hands off in that regard. They make a movie, we make a comic book, and we’ve put all our whole thing into just making the best possible comic book.”
Regardless of how the comic book is reimagined as a film, it’s clear this series is one to keep on your radar. All five issues can be purchased by inquiring at a nearby local comic book or at Comixology. Plus, on Free Comic Book Day (Saturday, August 14th), there will be a free reprint of Stray Dogs Issue No. 1 including a 10 page prequel about one of the dogs.